The Normal Heart, a Movie

This film is absolutely superb, yet terribly heart-wrenching and heartbreaking. For those of us who lived through this time, the journey backward unleashed old wounds and deep sorrows. Gay men in particular were treated as society’s pariahs, told this was God’s punishment for being homosexual. The religious community that should have rushed out to help define this moment in history in a benevolent way in fact shut its eyes and doors to the crisis that was looming. I lost a former partner, friends and a few boyfriends to this horrid disease. The Reagan White House all but dismissed HIV and AIDS, calling it “their” disease. Reagan saw HIV / AIDS as divine punishment for homosexuals, although one of his sons is gay and Reagan built his movie career on the backs of very creative gays. Bomer and Ruffalo are beyond awesome in this movie. All the actors are truly sensational telegraphing the sweeping sense of rejection felt writ large by gays across this nation. Had it not been for the aggressive militancy (which I often disagreed with at the time) of the likes of Larry Kramer and others, only God (and ONLY God) could have known where this might have ended up.

But gay men do not come off Scot-free from this moment in our history. Many, as noted in the film, were more inclined to continue with their reckless hedonism rather than heed the warning signs going off like sirens’ sounds. At the time I had a friend / colleague who was heading a national gay rights organization in its formative stage. I suggested to him during one of our luncheons that his group should raise the red and yellow flags about this health crisis. He responded that gays had been told for too long how to behave and his organization simply would not do that. I suggested that to be a failure of leadership.

Soon to turn 70, having come out 46 years ago this month with my first partner, I have managed to “dodge the bullet” as one long time friend puts it. Thank God — literally — the gay world passed through that moment in history. The scientific medical research that came as a result is perhaps a Divine gift in and of itself, because before HIV retroviruses were studied nowhere. They suddenly became the rage at medical research centers.

The fact Christian fundamentalists and right wingers turned up their noses rather than take the path that Jesus would have taken pretty well sums up how those folk are not Christian at all; neither in spirit/Spirit nor in action.

The Reverend Vincent Turner